Researchers Develop Lighter, Cost-Effective Lithium-Sulfur Battery Design

The battery design is nickel/cobalt-free and offers a competitive energy storage solution

November 6, 2023


Researchers from the Monash University in Australia and the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT) have unveiled a lithium-sulfur (Li-S) battery design with a nanoporous polymer-coated lithium foil anode, capable of reducing the amount of lithium required in a single battery and significantly improving the number of times the battery could be cycled.

In their published research, Ph.D. student Declan McNamara and professors Matthew Hill and Mainak Majumder of Monash Engineering, with Makhdokht Shaibani of RMIT University, demonstrate how applying the nanoporous polymer directly on the lithium foil anode created the new battery design that uses less lithium, has more energy per unit volume, lasts longer and will be half the price of lithium-ion batteries.

Li-S batteries have gained popularity due to the use of metallic lithium and sulfur to deliver more energy per gram than traditional lithium-ion batteries.

The new design aims to reduce the amount of lithium used in such batteries to help reduce the significant environmental footprint left behind by extracting and transporting lithium.

Li-S batteries contain a lithium anode and a sulfur cathode with just one separating layer, due to which the lithium metal undergoes a lot of strain, particularly when the battery charges and discharges, as the large amounts of lithium and sulfur react with one another. This has limited their commercial application on a large scale.

Lead researcher Declan McNamara explained that the thin polymer coating on the lithium foil creates tiny holes less than a nanometer in size – one billionth of a meter, allowing lithium ions to move freely while blocking unwanted chemical reactions. This coating also serves as a scaffold for lithium, enhancing its charge and discharge capabilities.

The new design also eliminates the need for nickel and cobalt, minerals associated with environmental and social costs in their extraction and use. The development allows for the widespread adoption of Li-S batteries and other lithium metal-based energy storage systems.

Matthew Hill emphasized the technology’s commercial viability and potential to meet the growing demand for electric vehicles, drones, and electronic devices, while the research team eagerly seeks commercial partnerships to develop this eco-friendly battery tech.

This approach promises a competitive edge for using Li-S batteries in the evolving energy storage landscape, including in the electric vehicles (EV) sector.

Recently, researchers from Helmholtz Institute Ulm and Karlsruhe Institute of Technology have created an eco-friendly, cost-effective method to recover 70% of lithium from battery waste, providing a sustainable, energy-efficient solution for recycling lithium-ion batteries.

This year, a sharp decline in global lithium compound prices, such as lithium carbonate, has the potential to gradually make EVs more affordable despite supply chain challenges and the continued dominance of lithium-based batteries in the global EV market.